Adopted by Peter and John Spitz
As a court reporter in 1946, Vivien Spitz was
recruited to go to Nuremberg, Germany, to report verbatim proceedings
at the Nuremberg War Crimes Trials. She was assigned to the first
Subsequent Proceedings trial, the medical case of 20 Nazi doctors
and three medical assistants. Spitz applied for the job in
Nuremberg after World War II because she was half German and a
Catholic and could not comprehend the horrors that were beginning
to appear in the press and newsreels.
In 1948, Spitz returned to the United States and realized
she had been deeply affected by the testimonies of the witnesses
and victims of the Holocaust. She was besieged with nightmares,
what today is called post-traumatic stress disorder. The nightmares
were always the same: she was trying to escape through a tunnel
with four or five children, while trying to keep everyone quiet
because a Nazi guard might discover their escape. She never completed
the dream, waking before she learned her fate.
Spitz served as an official shorthand reporter in the Denver
District Court, then was asked to substitute as an Official Reporter
of Debates in the United States Senate, the first woman to do so.
Before a job opened in the Senate, Spitz was hired as an Official
Reporter of Debates in the U.S. House of Representatives, a job
she held for ten years under four presidents.
Since retiring, Spitz has spoken throughout the country about
her experiences in Nuremberg and the Nazi crimes against humanity,
reaching more than 47,000 students and adults interested in medical
ethics and human rights. She has received several humanitarian
awards for her work. In 2005, she published a summary of her experiences
in what she considers the highlight work of her life: Doctors from
Hell, The Horrific Account of Nazi Experiments on Humans. In a
review in the New England Journal of Medicine, Dr. Paul S. Applebaum
of the University of Massachusetts Medical School wrote, “There
is no shortage of accounts of the perverse acts committed by the
Nazi doctors. But no academic summary that I have read transmits
the horror of their actions so powerfully as this book does.”
Spitz urges constantly that the lessons of the past not be forgotten.